Independent of whether better collection and recycling offsets the environmental impact of more smartphones, industry leaders must make sure that government regulators understand the societal benefits of such a strategy. Expanding the reach of smartphones to more of the world’s population offers a low-cost way to reduce the digital divide between people in developed versus developing nations, with perhaps even less environmental impact than the much-lauded $100 laptop. Regulations must avoid discouraging such innovation.
As these examples suggest, creating a more sustainable solution to managing consumer durables’ end of life requires significant rethinking. By taking a strategic perspective that embraces a wide range of levers, from design to pricing to vertical integration, companies could avoid the win–lose mind-set so often imposed on them through government regulation. Given the current unsustainable approach to consumer durables life-cycle management, the creative capitalist can easily find opportunities to increase profits while reducing environmental impact.
Reprint No. 10406
- Tim Laseter holds teaching appointments at the London Business School, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, and the Tuck School at Dartmouth College. He is the coauthor of Strategic Product Creation (McGraw-Hill, 2007) and the newest edition of The Portable MBA (Wiley, 2010). Formerly a partner with Booz & Company, he has more than 20 years of experience in operations.
- Anton Ovchinnikov is an assistant professor of business administration at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. His research addresses theoretical and application issues, including behavioral operations and environmental sustainability in the business, government, and nonprofit sectors.
- Gal Raz is an associate professor of business administration at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on supply chain pricing and contracts and the public policy implications of supply chain management. Previously, he was on the faculty of the Australian Graduate School of Management in Sydney.
- Also contributing to this article was Vered Doctori Blass, who holds a teaching and research appointment at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, Tel Aviv University.